NHL power rankings: Sharks lurking in Western waters
The Boston Bruins are peaking at just the right time. They just outscored opponents 46-17 during a 12-game winning streak. They rolled to the top spot in the Eastern Conference and joined the battle for the Presidents’ Trophy as well. "If we have a weakness, it’s pretty obvious it’s in the shootouts," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after his team fell to Montreal 2-1 in a shootout.
"We don’t do well, and I don’t care about that because it doesn’t happen in playoffs."
The Bruins stayed atop our power rankings by doing everything else well. Here is how the NHL pecking order shakes out:
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1 Bruins 49-17-6
GOOD NEWS: Veteran power forward Jarome Iginla continued his offensive surge by scoring five goals in four games last week.
BAD NEWS: Their 12-game winning streak ended during a tense 2-1 shootout loss to the rival Montreal Canadiens.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite that loss, they are still bidding for the Presidents’ Trophy and the first overall playoff seed.
2 Blues 49-16-7
GOOD NEWS: Back-up goaltender Brian Elliott threw a shutout at the Penguins, giving workhorse Ryan Miller a nice break.
BAD NEWS: They hit an offensive lull, suffering three shutouts during a span of 10 road games.
BOTTOM LINE: This team must replace the production lost when Vladimir Tarasenko suffered a broken hand.
3 Sharks 47-18-9 +3
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Brad Stuart returned after missing 13 games with an upper-body injury.
BAD NEWS: Forward Joe Pavelski went seven games without scoring a goal.
BOTTOM LINE: The Sharks locked up a playoff berth despite losing three times in four games, twice by shootout.
4 Blackhawks 42-16-15 +1
GOOD NEWS: Finnish prospect Teuvo Teravainen added some scoring depth just in time for the final playoff push.
BAD NEWS: Top winger Patrick Kane will miss the rest of the regular season with a lower-body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: The top Western Conference seed is slipping away, but that wouldn’t be a huge setback for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
5 Avalanche 45-21-6 -2
GOOD NEWS: Center John Mitchell is recovering from his back injury. He should return in time for the playoffs.
BAD NEWS: They recently suffered a defensive hiccup, allowing 13 goals in a three-game span.
BOTTOM LINE: They are chasing the Chicago Blackhawks in the standings, looking to earn the home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
6 Ducks 46-18-7 -2
GOOD NEWS: Rookie defenseman Hampus Lindholm seems to get better each week.
BAD NEWS: They lost six times in eight games before blowing out the Florida Panthers on their home ice.
BOTTOM LINE: Their prolonged late-season funk allowed the San Jose Sharks to race past them into the Pacific Division lead.
7 Kings 42-25-6 +1
GOOD NEWS: Newcomer Marian Gaborik found some chemistry with Anze Kopitar, scoring four points plus a shootout winner in his first eight games in LA.
BAD NEWS: Veteran center Mike Richards played his way into a fourth-line role.
BOTTOM LINE: The Kings won 11 times in 14 games to reassert themselves as a Stanley Cup contender.
8 Penguins 46-21-5 -1
GOOD NEWS: Top defenseman Kris Letang has recovered sufficiently from his stroke to resume practicing with the team. His seems likely to return for postseason play.
BAD NEWS: Center Evgeni Malkin could miss the rest of the regular season with a foot injury.
BOTTOM LINE: The Penguins will be a serious Cup contender IF they can get most of their key guys back for the playoffs.
9 Flyers 38-26-7
GOOD NEWS: Winger Claude Giroux had 10 points (one goal, nine assists) during a six-game scoring streak.
BAD NEWS: They allowed the visiting Los Angeles Kings to put 41 shots on goal during LA’s 3-2 victory.
BOTTOM LINE: The climbed toward the high side of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket with a 12-2-1 run, which included a five-game winning streak.
10 Lightning 39-24-9 +3
GOOD NEWS: Forward Valtteri Filppula scored four goals and added eight assists during an eight-game scoring streak.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Ben Bishop is allowing 2.88 goals per game since the Olympic break after allowing just 1.98 per game before the break.
BOTTOM LINE: Steven Stamkos is back scoring again (six goals and three assists in six games) and this team is scoring goals — three or more in eight consecutive games.
11 Canadiens 41-26-7
GOOD NEWS: Back-up goaltender Peter Budaj was heroic at Boston, leading the Canadiens to a 2-1 shootout victory.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Carey Price admits he hasn’t regained his Olympic form. He is still coming back from a lower-body injury suffered in Sochi.
BOTTOM LINE: The Canadiens went on a 5-1 tear to edge closer to gaining home-ice advantage for the first playoff run.
12 Wild 37-24-11
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov stepped up to win two games and gain points during a shootout loss and an overtime loss.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Darcy Kuemper finally suffered a reality check. He allowed three or more goals four times during a span of six appearances.
BOTTOM LINE: The Wild fell into a postseason-threatening slump, losing seven times in nine games.
13 Maple Leafs 36-30-8 +1
GOOD NEWS: Defenseman Paul Ranger dodged serious injury after a dangerous hit into the end boards.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender James Reimer posted a dismal .871 save percentage in five starts in place of the injured Jonathan Bernier.
BOTTOM LINE: They allowed the first goal in seven straight games and lost six of them. In five of those games, they fell behind by two or more goals.
14 Rangers 40-29-4 +1
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist went 3-0-0 last week with a 1.67 goals-against average and .942 save percentage.
BAD NEWS: Newcomer Martin St. Louis has appeared lost in the Big Apple. He mustered just two shots on goal in three games last week.
BOTTOM LINE: The Rangers can still roll three very good front lines. That depth, plus King Henrik in goal, will make them a tough out in the playoffs.
15 Stars 34-27-11 +1
GOOD NEWS: Center Tyler Seguin scored 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) during a nine-game scoring streak.
BAD NEWS: They are still shaking off the effects of their 7-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets last week.
BOTTOM LINE: They entered this week trailing Phoenix for the final wild-card slot in the West. They have no margin for error.
16 Coyotes 35-26-12 +1
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Mike Smith was went 7-4-1 with a 2.16 goals-against average coming out of the Olympic break.
BAD NEWS: He suffered an apparent right knee injury during a 4-3 road loss to the New York Rangers.
BOTTOM LINE: If the injury is as bad as it looked, the Coyotes will be hard-pressed to make a playoff run.
17 Red Wings 33-25-14 +2
GOOD NEWS: Emerging forward Gustav Nyquist scored six times in four games last week.
BAD NEWS: Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson is sidelined with a broken finger.
BOTTOM LINE: The Red Wings won’t go away easily. They earned seven of the possible eight points last week.
18 Capitals 34-27-12
GOOD NEWS: Supporting cast Mikhail Grabovski is finally healthy enough to resume practicing. A sprained ankle has cost him 20 games and counting.
BAD NEWS: In the first 13 games since the Olympic break, only six of the team’s 21 five-on-five goals came from top forwards Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich.
BOTTOM LINE: The Capitals earned nine of a possible 10 points during a critical five-game span despite their spotty five-on-five play.
19 Blue Jackets 37-29-6 -9
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky thrives on work. His start against the Detroit Red Wings was his 19th in a row.
BAD NEWS: The Jackets scored just six goals during a five-game span. Their power play fell into an 0-for-35 rut.
BOTTOM LINE: They lost three of four games — and five out of nine — to move back to the edge of the playoff race.
20 Devils 31-28-13
GOOD NEWS: Veteran forward Patrik Elias scored eight points during an eight-game span.
BAD NEWS: They still suffered two shutouts in a span of five games.
BOTTOM LINE: After losing four of five games, the Devils kept their fading playoff hopes alive by beating the falling Toronto Maple Leafs.
21 Senators 29-29-14
GOOD NEWS: Superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson reached the 20-goal plateau and set a team record in the process.
BAD NEWS: Key defenseman Chris Phillips left Monday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning with an injury.
BOTTOM LINE: The Senators collapsed defensively, allowing 28 goals during a six-game winless streak. They went 0-4-2 in that span.
22 Canucks 33-30-10
GOOD NEWS: Big forward Zack Kassian flashed his skill again with a four-assist game.
BAD NEWS: Center Henrik Sedin got hurt again, this time suffering a leg injury while actually trying to deliver a body check.
BOTTOM LINE: A nightmarish season for coach John Tortorella got even worse. Either the Canucks must start over or they must try a different coach.
23 Predators 31-31-11
GOOD NEWS: After getting shelled in Calgary, goaltender Pekka Rinne bounced back to earn a shutout at Chicago.
BAD NEWS: Elite young defenseman Seth Jones is sidelined with concussion-type symptoms.
BOTTOM LINE: They are just playing out the string while learning more about their still-developing forwards.
24 Jets 32-32-9
GOOD NEWS: Top center Bryan Little scored three goals and added six assists during an 11-game span.
BAD NEWS: Top goaltender Ondrej Pavelec missed five straight games with a lower-body injury.
BOTTOM LINE: Their playoff hopes died hard during a 2-6-3 downturn.
25 Hurricanes 31-32-9
GOOD NEWS: They locked up cornerstone defenseman Justin Faulk to a six-year contract extension.
BAD NEWS: Despite making lucrative long-term commitments to several key players, they will finish well outside of the playoff picture.
BOTTOM LINE: This team’s stunning collapse could lead to big changes, including Jim Rutherford moving out of the general manager’s chair.
26 Flames 30-35-7
GOOD NEWS: Veteran forward Mike Cammalleri just keeps scoring. He produced eight goals and five assists during a seven-game surge.
BAD NEWS: This late push was much too little, far too late to put the Flames into contention.
BOTTOM LINE: While the "Battle of Alberta" has lost some luster, the Flames put an 8-1 beating on the archrival Edmonton Oilers. Now THAT is how to find a positive in a lost season.
27 Oilers 25-39-9
GOOD NEWS: Top winger Jordan Eberle made a quick return from a lower-body injury.
BAD NEWS: After a 10-4-3 surge, they fell to the bottom-dwelling Buffalo Sabres and then suffered an epic 8-1 loss to the Calgary Flames.
BOTTOM LINE: Will that seven-goal defeat trigger a season-finishing collapse? Or will Edmonton resume its build-up for next season?
28 Islanders 28-35-9
GOOD NEWS: Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov turned back the clock with a 41-save shutout against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
BAD NEWS: Despite that, the Islanders still ranked dead last in the NHL in goals-against average this season.
BOTTOM LINE: Finding the long-term goaltending solution is just one of many challenges ahead for GM Garth Snow.
29 Panthers 27-38-8
GOOD NEWS: Veteran goaltender Roberto Luongo seems to be taking all this losing in stride.
BAD NEWS: Injuries to top young players Alexander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Erik Gudbrandson have forced this team to start training camp lineups.
BOTTOM LINE: A fascinating offseason awaits GM Dale Tallon. Can he find the right talent to support his outstanding youngsters?
30 Sabres 20-44-8
GOOD NEWS: The team was working on a three-year contract to keep coach Ted Nolan in place for the rebuild.
BAD NEWS: Goaltender Jhonas Enroth’s lower-body injury denied him an opportunity to establish himself as next season’s starter.
BOTTOM LINE: There is still some clean-up ahead. For instance, forward Ville Leino earns $3.5 million per season and he failed to score a goal in his first 50 games.